Air travel will be different in the future.
After a year like 2020, it’s a safe bet to say that air travel will never be the same again. In an industry that was impacted at every level, countless changes have already occurred in order for airlines to adapt and survive.
There’s also renewed hope that the outbreak could soon wind down: Federal officials have approved a vaccine. Here’s a look at what the future of air travel holds—next year and beyond.
1. Long-haul flights will see new innovations
From virus-sniffing dogs in airports to new apps that process travelers’ COVID-19 information and contact-tracing from airlines, the air travel industry is getting creative in order to restart long-haul flights. Delta, for one, is set to restart flights to Europe with a new test regimen, while new apps will make vaccination status and test results easier for border officials to read.
2. Business travel will get a reboot
One of the most important parts of airlines’ recoveries will be winning back business travelers. But this valuable sector of passengers won’t settle for the same old premium cabin. Before they get back onto planes, business fliers want to see major adjustments like seats that are more spacious and private, fare classes with added perks, and lenient loyalty program policies—to name a few.
3. Vaccines are already making a difference
A vaccine is on the horizon, and travelers are already feeling more optimistic about flying next year: Flight search site Skyscanner reported that U.S. bookings for economy round-trip flights jumped up 9 percent on the heels of the first positive vaccine news. Airline CEOs, including those at Qantas Airways and Delta, have already hinted that they will soon require their passengers to be inoculated before flying.
4. New planes will change the airline experience
As post-pandemic recovery starts to take shape, experts say that the established trend of airlines eschewing larger double-decker planes, like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, will accelerate. Instead, carriers are opting for nimbler and efficient jets—and even investing in some futuristic designs like a “blended wing” aircraft. Smaller planes won’t mean less comfort: Expect to see wider seats, larger windows that are able to dim, and more spacious overhead bins.
5. Booking will remain flexible
Passengers have been afforded more flexibility during the crisis—and they will be loath to give it up down the line. Fortunately, U.S. airlines seem to have already recognized this fact and have gone to work nixing inconvenient change and cancellation fees. Flying standby on the same day and putting frequent flier miles back into loyalty accounts are becoming free benefits, too. But the jury is still out on whether seat selection or baggage fees will see the chopping block.
Conde’ Nest Traveler